HMS ECHO Navy News. Echo-location
Q. What do a bat, dolphin and SVHO have in common?
A. They all use some form of echolocation as their primary ‘weapon system’, and all came into contact with each other one day in the South Coast Exercise Areas this October. HMS ECHO, one of the Royal Navy’s two SVHOs (Survey Vessel Hydrographic Oceanographic), was carrying out survey training off Plymouth, using her Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) and Side Scan Sonar (SSS) to obtain images of a wreck. Both sonar systems use the two way travel time of sound to estimate the depth and position of features, thus obtaining an accurate depiction of the seabed. In this case, images were obtained of the wreck East Point, a 120m long steamship which was torpedoed in 1917 by the U-Boat U48. Archive records show that prior to sinking, the East Point managed to ram and damage the U48.
Whilst ECHO was conducting the survey training a small bat (later identified as a Nathusius’s Pipistrelle) was discovered one morning as the sun rose, initially flying around the quarterdeck before alighting on the ship’s superstructure. This gave LS Stoddard the opportunity to photograph the mouse-sized mammal, which may have come from as far away as Latvia. Bats use a highly sophisticated form of echolocation to communicate, navigate and locate their prey. However, this individual had seemingly become rather lost, finding itself many miles out at sea. It caused something of a dilemma; whether the animal be recorded in the Seabird or Marine Mammal log, as all such sightings constitute important environmental data. The fate of the bat is unknown, but all on ECHO very much hope it managed to find its way back to dry land and some warm cave.
Lastly, the common dolphins, which make a regular feature of the South Coast, were seen in great numbers as ECHO patrolled off Plymouth. Of course, care must be taken when operating any sonar system in the vicinity of such mammals and strict risk mitigation measures are put in place. Like most cetaceans, dolphins use echolocation as they navigate their way around the marine environment, with their complex vocalisations often being heard with the right listening equipment.
ECHO was carrying out the training ready to deploy to the Mediterranean later in the year, whilst her sister ship ENTERPRISE was returning from deployment. This gave the rare opportunity for both ships to conduct a sail past, and were later berthed adjacent to each other in HMNB DEVONPORT. LPhot Phil Bloor captured the ‘reunion’, the first occasion since the ships last rendezvoused off Sicily in 2015.
7010 Squadron Update, 17 November 2020
Current Establishment: 94, Strength: 85, Fully Trained Strength: 66
4 members of the Sqn remain mobilised in support of UK Operations. 3 Sqn members have expressed interest in mobilisation requirements in 2021.
The Sqn’s Aug and Sep working weekends were held again as “virtual weekends” with all attending personnel working from home on skills maintenance tasks via MS Teams (MoD COVID Homeworking System version). In Oct, RAF Wyton relaxed COVID restrictions sufficiently for the Sqn to hold a normal working weekend – a great morale boaster! Sqn members used the weekend to refresh specialist IT skills and reacquaint themselves with our intelligence tasking.
Basic Recruit and Intelligence Analyst training has continued since my last summary, hence the slight increase in the Strength and Trained Strength figures above. Interest in joining the RAF Reserve remains constant and we held an information day for potential recruits (17 attended) in Oct, the first since Mar.
2 Sqn members provided safety boat cover for the duration of the RAF Sailing Association/Royal Yachting Association Sailability competition for disabled sailors (incorporating the Brady Trophy) at Rutland Water, 20-23 Oct.
1 Sqn member participated in the RAF Water Ski and Wakeboarding Association 10th Cable Championships at Box End Park 24-28 Aug and was placed 2nd overall.
Officer Commanding 7010 Squadron